Local craftsman creates custom knife to honor National Guard

By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer, slyles@newsandpress.net

To honor the service of U.S. military service members, Hartsville native Brandon Williams decided to use his particular set of skills to create a one of a kind presentation knife, a project that required a couple of months of work, significant amounts of sweat – and a little blood – to complete.

“I come from a military family, and I’ve worked six years with SLED doing security. My two older brothers are in active military service and my father is a Navy SEALs veteran,” says Williams. “And my friend Clarence Adams is currently working on a bench dedicated to the Darlington County Sheriff’s Office, and seeing him give his time to honor law enforcement made me as a civilian want to do something to honor our military.”

“It’s always been a hobby and a passion of mine. I grew up on a farm, so I always saw my granddaddy working with knives,” says Williams.

Knife maker Brandon Williams with the Saxon-style blade he crafted to honor the Darlington National Guard.
Photo by Samantha Lyles

Working in the private security field, Williams says that he uses knives as part of his work kit, but his interest in blade craft doesn’t begin and end with their daily functionality. He says that his engineer father imparted a sense of curiosity and a desire to know not just how things work, but how they are created. And, to that end, he teamed up with a buddy to build a makeshift forge and delved into the hands-on process of shaping metal.

“I got into bladesmithing because I just love the process behind it… I went over to a friend’s house and we built a forge out of a fifty-gallon oil drum, a truck rim, and a blower off of a tobacco barn,” says Williams, noting that the air from the blower is sufficient to heat regular charcoal briquettes to temperatures of 3000 Fahrenheit. “Then I just started picking up a hammer, heating up steel and swinging away.”

For the National Guard knife project, Williams decided on a Saxon-style blade with a sharply angled tip and a cedar wood handle inlaid with spent 9mm casings from the Darlington National Guard. The knife overall is about 14 inches, and the unsharpened blade is approximately 10 inches.

“I started with an old lawn mower blade that was about 30 inches long. I heated it, hammer forged it flat, and then hot cut it,” says Williams. “Since the mower blade is made of tempered steel, I had to get the forge up to around 1800 degrees to work with it. The original design was supposed to be a Bowie knife, but because of the hardness of the metal I couldn’t work it into that shape, get that curve into it.”

Even though each time Williams picks up his four-pound sledgehammer (nicknamed Mjolnir, after Thor’s hammer) and heads to the forge, he uses blacksmithing gloves, aprons, and eye protection, he was bitten by the blade at least once during the forging process, sustaining a nasty cut along his finger. So there is literally some of his blood incorporated into his creation. Still, despite the occasional injury, he says the process is rewarding and he hopes to improve his bladesmithing skills by crafting memorial blades for each branch of the U.S. military.

“The Marine Corps knife will be made from parts off a 240 Bravo machine gun. For the Air Force knife, I’m getting aluminum from the landing gear of an aircraft, which I’ll use to make the handle. For the Navy, my older brother is going to send me some pieces from a naval bulkhead. And for the Army, a friend of mine is supposed to be sending me some scrap metal from an Abrams M1 tank,” says Williams.

While each of these projects promises its own challenges and rewards, Williams says the National Guard knife is special because it taught him so much about the process of smithing, and completing it brings a great sense of satisfaction.

“I told my dad that I feel like a proud papa on this knife. You start with something raw, and you’re forming it, watching it grow into something you can be proud of,” says Williams.

Upon completion, the blade was given to the SC Army National Guard in Darlington for display in their offices.

Author: Duane Childers

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